If you haven’t floated the river at least once, is it really summer in Texas? The short answer: no. The long answer: here are a bunch of places in Central Texas you can get your tubing fix.
Barton Creek Greenbelt
Sure, this isn’t an “official” tubing destination. It’s a BYOT (bring your own tube) situation, but clearly the best option if you don’t feel like making the drive to, say, San Marcos or New Braunfels.
Location: Austin. Tube rentals: No. Estimated cost: Free. Alcohol: No booze allowed on Barton Creek (but you’ll see this doesn’t stop many people).
Scoot on down for a day trip to New Braunfels for some of the best tubing around. The Comal River is the shortest navigable river in Texas and it’s nice and chilly (according to tubing sites, it’s a cool 72 degrees year-round since it’s spring-fed). And there are countless tube rental locations, all with return shuttle services to get you back to your car safely. Try Comal Tubes, Landa Falls, Texas Tubes or Comal Rockin’ R.
Location: New Braunfels. Tube rentals: Yes. Estimated cost: $15-$25. Shuttles: Yes (some free, some paid, depending on tubing company). Alcohol: Drink up, just don’t bring glass or Styrofoam.
The Guadalupe is pretty much the Comal’s big brother. It’s more popular, it’s louder and there are always more people there, which makes it perfect if you’ve got a big group to entertain. Try renting your tubes at Tube Haus, River Sports Tubes, Whitewater Sports or Shanty Tubes.
Location: New Braunfels/Canyon Lake. Tube rentals: Yes. Estimated cost: $18-24. Shuttles: Yes (some free, some paid, depending on tubing company). Alcohol: Drink up, just don’t bring glass or Styrofoam.
San Marcos River
San Marcos is, without a doubt, the most popular tubing destination in Central Texas. It’s the closest to Austin and you’ll see everyone there from college kids to families to retirees. Lions Club is likely the most popular tubing rental company (and also the cheapest, if you don’t count the $20 refundable deposit), but Texas State Tubes and Don’s Fish Camp are popular among the college crowds.
Location: San Marcos. Tube rentals: yes. Estimated cost: $12-50. Shuttles: Yes. Alcohol: Drink up, just don’t bring glass or Styrofoam.
- Bring something to hold your ID/cash. Something water-resistant, preferably, that you can keep around your neck or tie onto your bathing suit/shoes/clothing.
Wear sandals or other water-resistant shoes. Sure, a lot of people go barefoot in the river, but remember that you’ll have to be barefoot the whole shuttle ride back to your car, and a hot parking lot during a Texas summer is unforgiving. I swear by my Chacos and Tevas, which are water-resistant, super comfy and won’t fall off my feet in the river.
- Don’t bring anything you’re not prepared to lose. I still think fondly of a pair of Ray-Bans floating somewhere at the bottom of the San Marcos River from a college floating trip many moons ago.
Protect yourself from the sun. This goes for anytime you’re outside during a Texas summer, but make sure you’ve got sunscreen, a hat and sunglasses (not Ray-Bans. Do as I say, not as I do, friends).
- Bring a refillable cup/tumbler. It’ll help keep your drink cool and reduces waste.
- Don’t litter. Don’t you want the river to stay nice for you and your friends and generations to come? Keep your trash and throw it out when you’re done.
- In case you didn’t get the message earlier, don’t bring glass or Styrofoam. Glass can break (duh) which is no fun for barefoot river-goers (duh). And Styrofoam breaks easily and isn’t biodegradable. Cans are your friends. The environment thanks you.
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